Thursday, November 1, 2018

Release Review: The Story of Us by Barbara Elsborg

Release Review: The Story of Us by Barbara Elsborg

Two boys. One love. Ten summers.

Are you okay?
The first words Zed says to Caspian, and the first time someone has cared about the answer. On a hot summer’s day, the lives of two boys are changed forever. A rebel and a risk taker, Caspian doesn’t give a damn for the consequences. Studious and obedient, Zed is the good boy who is never good enough.

The two couldn’t be more different, but there’s one thing they share, a need to belong to someone who understands them, someone who cares. Their friendship goes deeper than either can possibly imagine. They’re young, in love, and planning their future when an act of betrayal tears them apart.

Fate deals its hand. Seasons pass. Zed’s words follow Caspian through pain, fear and into the darkest of places. Friendships can last a lifetime, even when the world conspires to crush them. But this is more than friendship. This is love and they’re not going to let it slip through their fingers.

The Story of Us is a tale of love and survival, and the triumph of good over evil against the odds. It's a new adult contemporary romance that deals with family and social issues. There is violence and cruelty to children but not sexual assault. The story has sexual situations, dark elements and suspense. The events and locations are a mixture of real and fictional. The characters are fictional.

5+++++ Stars!!!

This book is long, 158,000 words or 8275 locs on my kindle, which sounds daunting enough, I know, especially considering the theme. It's not an easy read for sure, either. So, if you don't like angsty stories, this might not be for you. However, if you give it a chance I guarantee it will likely be one of the best books you ever read.

Zed and Caspian meet when Zed is 14 and Caspian is 15. They both have some troubles at home, Zed with an abusive father that beats him at the slightest provocation and Caspian living on the shadow of his older brother Lachlan and while his father is not physically abusive, words hurt just as much if not more. Zed and Caspian bond through their plights and forge a friendship that will grow into love eventually and will withstand the test of time and betrayal of the worst kind.

This book is angsty and I cried several times at what both Zed and Caspian went through. However, the angst is balanced out with their friendship, loyalty and love for each other. It's balanced out with their humor and with Henry and Jonas, who were the most amazing parents for Zed from when he was 16 and then later for Caspian.

I adored Zed, he was so determined and mature for his age. I just wanted to gather him in my arms and make everything better for him. My heart broke every time he interacted with his father and saw how badly he was treated. I will admit that during the first half of the book I felt more connected to Zed than to Caspian, but later on, it was Caspian who tugged at my heartstrings, especially after he returned to his house.

Caspian and Zed had amazing chemistry and a great rapport, their banter was a thing of beauty and I just loved them together. They were hot and sweet and I just couldn't get enough of them, even when there were moments in which I wanted to shake some sense into Caspian.

I hated Zed's father, and I hope he's burning in the fiery pits of hell, but even more, I hated Caspian's parents, especially his father, who I wished suffered a bit more than he did.

Be aware that there's a lot of talk of Muslim religion, of which I knew next to nothing before reading this book, but seemed realistic enough, and the book runs parallel to certain real terrorist events that happened in the UK from 2012-2017 mostly, so you're warned.

All in all, I can't recommend this book enough, I devoured it in less than 2 days and I now have the hangover to prove it. It's pretty much my favorite book this year and definitely up there in my Top 3 books ever, which is not that surprising considering the quality of Barbara Elsborg's writing.

*** Copy provided to Bayou Book Junkie for my reading pleasure, a review wasn't a requirement. ***

5 Stars! 

Possibly BE's best tale to date. It has suspense, heart, danger, betrayal and more, all done Brit-style, with BE's class.

I was lucky enough to be one of the beta readers for this tale, and I've read pretty much everything that BE has written, so I'm familiar with her writing, her style, her research and plotting, but this one blew me away, as it was written in a matter of just a few short weeks and featured RL events that have taken place in Britain over the last few years, which BE managed to blend seamlessly with fiction. She's done it with her trademark plausibility and intelligence that make her writing sexy. And no, I don't mean sexy as in with lots of sex in it, though this has its requisite share, but her writing has an appeal based on how much BE respects hers, her leads', and her readers' brains (sorry, a bit convoluted, but I can't express it more clearly).

The tale starts in 2011 and spans 7 years, with the leads, 15yo Caspian (moneyed, a rebel and a risk taker, expelled from more than one school, a dreamer and inventor) and 14yo Zed (half English, half Iranian, a studious kid whose life isn't easy and who always obeys all the rules) becoming friends one summer. They have very little in common other than each wanting a friend, wanting to be loved for who they are, but, something bonds them, something that takes them through the next 7 years of their lives, whether they're together or apart, whether they speak or see each other or not, until a time comes when they can be together again.

The tale is beautifully written, despite what the storyline entails, and the guys go from childhood to adulthood in what feels like the blink of an eye, because of what life throws at them. There's harsh reality, and harsher fiction (in some ways) blending together in this tale, but BE doesn't miss a trick. Everything ties in seamlessly and there's more than one 'it's scary and sad, but you can't live that way' fact of life depicted in this book, that applies to so many of us, and one that is a daily thing to be aware of, to be on the lookout for, for me as a Londoner. It brought stuff home that RL isn't all roses, and that we live in scary times.

The tale isn't an easy read, and it has a whole gamut of emotions and events. It has characters with integrity and those who should be so much more than they are, people who don't deserve the honour of their titles/names. It has various depictions of love, and of a lack of love. I'm from an ethnic minority myself, one where males like to think they're superior and it's a case of, 'my way or the highway', and BE portrayed one such character particularly well, so much so that it was like taking a trip back in time. I love how she took time to research the culture that she's chosen to include in her tale, because it's all in the details for me when I read a book - I want my mind and my emotions to be involved and this book fulfilled both criteria.

I also love a bit of (classy) 'Bollywood-ism' in a tale, and by that, no, I don't mean the song-and-dance sequences, but the 'good things happen to good people, and bad guys get what's coming to them' trope. For me, 4 characters in this deserved to pay for their actions. One managed to redeem himself in a way that felt very organic, given all things wrong, small and not, that he'd done to Caspian, and yes, one of those was a huge wrong, and one was a horrendous wrong. Two who should have loved and supported Caspian and Zed unconditionally, but who betrayed and hurt them physically and emotionally, and let them down, got their comeuppance, in very different ways and yet both got them in ways that hurt them: their peers and their communities would be in the know. The last, who BE had kept me guessing about for a large part of the tale, was guilty of a big betrayal that hurt both Zed, and me as a Brit. I can't fathom his mindset, but he, too, got what he deserved, and no, I don't applaud the actual (only) way in which this could have happened (tale or not), it felt as if it were the only right thing to happen to him. I apologise if this is confusing, but this book has too good a plot to Spoiler it.

The HEA, summarised and not depicted in detail, is the culmination of Zed's and Caspian's dreams for their future, and it's one that I knew they'd get, irrespective of the price to be paid, because this is a BE book and a HEA is a given.

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